From Spy to Samurai: Solve Puzzles and Mysteries at Tokyo’s Escape Rooms

“You must eliminate Black Max and rescue the scientist,” says the severe looking agent on the TV screen. I have been invited into the world of espionage at InSPYre, an escape room in the heart of Shinjuku.

The idea behind escape rooms is deceptively simple. The player tries to escape from a locked room by solving a series of puzzles. Easy.

With traditional escape rooms the only things between the player and freedom are their wits and the time limit, but recent escape rooms have become much more than simple Holmes fulfillment fantasies.

This is particularly true in Japan, where 脱出ゲーム (escape games) cover every kind of experience you might want, from small logic-based rooms to large-scale public treasure hunts spanning the entire city.

Tokyo’s Mission: Impossible

The subtly named InSPYre is a venue that pits the player against the evil Black Max organization. With nothing but a handy tablet device, the player must solve puzzles in order to thwart a variety of nefarious plans.

The play area is an open space that holds a number of smaller rooms, locks, corridors and tunnels that hide dozens and dozens of puzzles and traps. The time limit is 10 minutes, which makes this particular venue more of an action focused espionage thriller than some of more cerebral offerings.

Tasks are randomized every time you play and a typical run could be anything from breaking into a lab to steal something then remotely unlocking a door to escape, to freeing a scientist before crawling your way to freedom. One of the challenges is usually physical, which might require dodging lasers or checking security cameras for clues. These can be difficult, especially if you are over six feet tall, but the relief of completing puzzles under pressure is the allure.

After 11pm you can buy a night pass, which allows you to play as many times as you want before the morning trains. Depending on your Friday night plans, this might be a fun alternative to karaoke.

Find details about InSPYre on our Concierge listing.

Shinjuku’s Ringmaster

If you are unsure whether puzzle games are for you, Tokyo Mystery Circus is a venue that offers a wide range of games. The focus is on the puzzles, with only a few being escape rooms in the traditional sense.

Their newest attraction is a projection mapping game called The Magic Library’s Bizarre Encyclopedia, where up to five players sit around a table and solve puzzles to seal away escaped magical creatures. The premise is simple, but the integration of technology and funky visuals make it somewhat unique in the genre. The English language version of The Magic Library opens on December 4.

A far more orthodox game involves escaping from a prison cell with nothing but the handful of objects given to you. Escape from the Prison is self-explanatory, with the entire escape-game philosophy boiled down into a single 10-minute game. If you have never tried an escape game before, this is a great place to start.

The other English-language game is based on Metal Gear Solid, replete with characters and technology from the series. Much like the video game, the objective is to sneak around and avert global catastrophe by finding keys and codes. Players are encouraged to interact with actors in order to complete their goals, adding a fun twist to the genre.

If you can speak Japanese there are many more games you can play, just make sure your Japanese is really good. Tokyo Mystery Circus is always updating their games so be sure to check online for availability.

Find details about Tokyo Mystery Circus on our Concierge listing.

Samurai Puzzle Warrior

Nazobako in Asakusa embodies a far more measured style of game. With a generous time limit and all the clues within arms reach it is a test of pure deductive reasoning. There are three different types of room, each with a unique theme, including the Christmas room reopened for the holiday season.

The Samurai room is a small space filled to the brim with puzzles. It is based around an assassination attempt against your lord and in contrast to other venues, the Samurai room leads to a conclusion that relies on the player having kept up with the story. It may sound vague, but saying any more would spoil the ending.

These rooms are best played in groups as there is a surprising breadth of puzzles crammed into the space, making the room difficult to complete by yourself. Admittedly I am no sleuth, but playing by myself I only managed to complete about half of the room before my hour was up.

Luckily there are envelopes containing clues placed next to the puzzles and you can ask staff for some extra pointers if you really have no idea what to do next.

Find details on about Nazobako our Concierge listing.

Elementary, My Dear Tokyo

Everyone loves a good puzzle, even more so when you are the one doing the deducing. Whether you are a James Bond or a Sherlock Holmes there are plenty of impenetrable facilities to break into, and prison cells to bust out of in Tokyo.

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